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Street View: 21
Address: 20 Gracechurch Street

elevation

The previous post showed us Charles Snelling, perfumer and hairdresser, moving from Wellington Street to 20 Gracechurch Street some time between the publication of the Tallis booklet and the 1841 census. In the Tallis booklet for Gracechurch Street, number 20 is occupied by E. Pryor, silversmith, jeweller and cutler. The advertisement for the shop in the booklet shows us that E. Pryor was widow Elizabeth Pryor. She had continued the business of her husband Nathaniel after his death in 1833.(1) Nathaniel Pryor (born 1766) and Elizabeth Thake (born 1777) had married in 1795 at St. Botolph’s, Bishopsgate, but the earliest mention I found of a shop for them in Gracechurch Street is in 1809 in the Sun Fire Office records. That is not to say that Nathaniel had not had a shop before that, perhaps even as early as 1789 when he was eligible for the freedom of the Goldsmith’s Company (he had started his apprenticeship at Joseph Savory’s of Cheapside in 1782), but he may just as well have stayed on with his master as a journeyman. In the advertisement Elizabeth entered into the Tallis’ Street View booklet, she says that the business had been established 30 years ago, which would indeed suggest 1809 as the starting date.

Advertisement in Tallis's Street View booklet

Advertisement in Tallis’s Street View booklet

Montague Howard in his Old London Silver of 1903 gives Nathaniel from 1810 to 1833 and Elizabeth from 1834 tot 1840. Intriguingly, he also gives a Matthew Pryor at 20 Gracechurch Street in 1819, but I have not found any record of him elsewhere. Could that have been a misreading of Nath.? We do not know a lot more about the shop or what was sold there other than what has been described in the advertisement, but there is a bit more to say about the charitable work undertaken by the Pryors.

For all Victorians charity constituted a large part of everyday life and an advertisement in The Morning Chronicle of 7 May 1821 testifies that the Pryors were no exception. Mrs Pryor is mentioned as one of the people undertaking all the arrangements for the embarkation of a destitute mother and her eight children to New South Wales where they are to join the husband and father. The subscription needed was to cloth the family and provide them with a few necessities for their passage. In this particular case, we do not know the name of the woman, but in another case, we know more.

In February 1819, Nathaniel Pryor received a letter from the Bank of England saying that they were prepared to give £5 to Elizabeth Brooks upon her embarking for transportation to New South Wales. Elizabeth Brooks had been convicted of knowingly trying to pay with a counterfeit £1 bank note. The case was heard at the Old Bailey in September 1818 and she was sentenced to death.(2) The sentence must have been changed to one of transportation as on the 1st of February, Elizabeth Brooks writes to the Governors of the Bank of England from Newgate Prison’s “transport side” that she is to go “to a Foreign Country” with her children, two of which are with her in the prison. Two others who are at a factory are to join her with a 5th child to remain behind, looked after by a friend. While Elizabeth was in prison she sold or pawned all her clothes to support the children and now that transportation was imminent, she asked the bank for support. This may seem strange as she first robbed them by trying to pay with a forged note, but the Bank had a fund set aside for desperate cases such as Elizabeth’s.(3) I gather from the correspondence that Elizabeth’s letters did not go to the Bank directly, but were sent via an intermediary, in this case Nathaniel Pryor, hence the answer to him and not to her directly.

1819 letter bank

The original letters from Elizabeth Brooks and the bank’s answer to Nathaniel Pryor (and many more like them) can be seen here.

Despite the fact that Elizabeth Pryor said that she was still continuing her late husband’s shop in the Tallis’ Street View advertisement, she must have given the business up quite soon afterwards, as in the 1841 census we find her living as an “independent” with William Smither, a tea-dealer at 28 Gracechurch Street. As we have seen, the shop at number 20 was taken over by hairdresser and perfumer Charles Snelling who had his business there until at least 1852 when dividends were paid out to his creditors after bankruptcy proceedings had been started against him.

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(1) Nathaniel died the 15th and was buried the 24th of the 2nd month of 1833 at Bunhill Fields. The notation of the month as the 2nd rather than February is a Quaker practice and the records of the Quarterly Meeting of London and Middlesex contain a paper asking Thomas Colcock, grave maker to dig a grave for Nathaniel in the Friends’ burial ground at Bunhill Fields.
(2) Old Bailey case t18180909-107.
(3) See website Bank of England here.

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